Writing and Publishing Advice—Who Do You Trust? Part 1
Updated: Jun 9, 2021
One thing I’ve learned about writing and publishing advice is that there is so much out there that it can actually be detrimental to me moving forward with my endeavours. I’ve researched many professionals in the publishing industry but narrowed them down to a few whose advice I like and trust, and who provide advice that works for me. Even then, I pick and choose the bits I feel comfortable implementing, so that I don’t become overwhelmed. I trust you’ll find something useful in this post. Here are some pointers to some real questions asked by real writers in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity.
Any chance we can learn how to write a proper query letter?
My absolute #1-go-to for query letters is literary agent, Janet Reid’s THE QUERY SHARK blog.
Janet kindly critiques real-life query letters sent in by writers FOR FREE. The letters are published anonymously—but be warned, she doesn’t mince her words. She takes a tough-love approach that is more a kick up the pants to get your query letter right.
Having interviewed Janet and having her guest post on my blog, I know she just wants to see authors succeed. It’s also a great litmus test to see if you’re cut out for the often brutal and confronting world of handling the critique of being a published author.
Also, make sure you read EVERY SINGLE ARCHIVE before you submit your own query letter to Janet.
She doesn’t respond to the kinds of queries that she’s responded to in the past—remember, she does this in her spare time for free. She doesn’t have time to repeat herself.
If you don’t want your query letter blasted all over the internet for everyone to see, Janet also provides a private paid consult on query letters.
Author platform and book marketing are def the bits that are most overwhelming and mysterious to me as someone just breaking into the publishing world. If one more person tells me to 'just start a blog', I'm going to scream and defenestrate myself.
Hold up! Before you leap out that window—there are loads of great things you can do to build your author platform that don’t include blogging. I’ve documented my S.L.O.W approach to building my author platform on my blog (don’t worry, I didn’t have a blog for ages, and if you don’t want to have a blog, there’s still heaps you can do to build your author platform without one).
My top 3 tips for getting your author platform started (even if you’re still an un-published author) are:
Create an author website
Set up a pop-up box on your website to start a mailing list from folks interested in your work, even if you don’t have a newsletter
Pick your favourite social media platform to start connecting with other writers and professionals—in my opinion, it’s better to start with one excellent social media platform than juggle six mediocre ones
Take your time with each step and only move on to the next one when you’re comfortable to do so.
The publishing journey is a marathon, we need to pace ourselves.
Book Marketing: Build Your Author Brand
As for book marketing, did you know that it’s more about building your author brand rather than building your book brand? I didn’t realise this either until I read The 10 Commandments of Author Branding by author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel. By the way, I don’t get paid to promote this book—I just connected with it so much that I love to shout about it from the rooftops.
If you’re not in the position to buy her book, Shayla’s blog is packed full of author marketing yumminess with practical and doable steps.
I would love to know more about the publishing process, like how to find an agent and the wheeling the dealer when it comes to the deal?
Your first port of call is deciding which avenue of publishing you’re going to take. Jane Friedman’s The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2021-2022 (with the pros and cons of each) will help you decide which path suits you best.
My top 3 places I’ve used to look for agents are:
Publisher’s Market Place (subscription required)
More important than finding the right agent or publisher is avoiding the wrong ones! Always research any agent, editor or publisher on Victoria Strauss’s WRITER BEWARE site! Don’t get caught by agents that charge you reading fees to read your manuscript or vanity presses that charge you money to publish your books.
Landed an Agent? Congrats! Now What?
As for wheeling the dealer, you can’t go past ex-literary-agent-turned-consultant, Nathan Bransford’s articles: A Guide to Literary Agent Etiquette and How to Handle an Offer of Representation. Here’s a Tweet thread by literary agent, Kelly Peterson, about how NOT to treat an agent (language warning).
It’s also advisable not to throw questions at agents on social media or jump into their DMs. Some agents invite writers to ask them questions using the #AskAgent hashtag on Twitter.
Check through all the questions first to see if the answer has already been provided.
I aim to keep a blog packed full of helpful information for writers, especially newbies.
Here are a mix of my favourite posts and some guest posts:
Using F Words—Crafting Authentic Responses to Traumatic Events: Fight, Flight, Freeze … or ‘Friend’
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